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Perrier 2000 judge supports the corporate-free Tap Water Award at the Edinburgh Fringe

25th August 2001 - photo opportunity

The Perrier Comedy Award boycott comes to a head this weekend as the Edinburgh Festival draws to an end. Various activities have been arranged to raise awareness of Nestle's (Perrier's parent company) marketing malpractice of breastmilk substitutes.

The corporate-free alternative to the Perrier Comedy Awards, the Tap Water Awards, were organised by Out of the Blue and held at the Bongo Club on Thursday 23th August from 10.30pm. Because these Awards began quite spontaneously for this, the first year, it was not possible to organise a proper judging panel to review all the acts. Over one hundred acts entered. All entrants joining the Perrier Boycott were given a plug (and a chain).

The format of the awards in future will be decided in the coming year. Emma Thompson has offered to present the prizes next time.

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Tally Ho proudly show off their prize as entrants to the corporate-free Tap Water Awards.

(Cartoon: Frank Boyle - first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News 23/08/01. Copyright exists on this cartoon - please contact us if you would like to reproduce it.)
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Mark Wilson (Deputy Arts Editor - The Independent) who was on the panel for the Perrier Awards in 2000.

Mark Wilson said:

"I believe that the Tap Water Awards provide a vibrant alternative to the more commercial aims of the Perrier Prize. They are nurturing comedy talent for the future in a less competitive format, as well as drawing attention to important issues of globalisation and consumer choice."

The Perrier Awards are announced on Saturday 25th at midnight at Potter Row. On Sunday 26th and Monday 27th The Perrier Pick of the Fringe shows take place at the Assembly rooms. It is expected that boycott supporters will make a light-hearted appearance at these events providing a photo opportunity.

UNICEF estimate that reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save 1.5 million lives every year. Where water is unsafe an artificially fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than a breastfed child. The aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes by companies such as Nestle is contributing to this unnecessary death and suffering. It was for this reason that the comedian Rob Newman first called on other comedians at this years Edinburgh Festival to boycott the Perrier Awards. Various other comedians and celebrities have also added their voices to the calls to boycott the Awards including Emma Thompson, Julie Christie and Victoria Wood.

Jonathan Dorsett, Campaigns Officer at Baby Milk Action, said:

"Those who have boycotted the Perrier Awards have really helped to raise awareness about Nestle's malpractice, and have helped to put Nestle under pressure to change. This must indicate to Nestle the strong feeling there is amongst the public that it needs to bring its activities into line with international legislation."

Patti Rundall OBE, Policy Director at Baby Milk Action, added:

"We must not forget that companies have a clear commercial agenda - and receive huge financial advantages from sponsoring cultural, educational and sporting events - compared to direct TV advertising for example - the costs are much lower. It is not altruism. Sometimes the sponsor gives just a top-up grant - yet its name appears everywhere. Companies use the benefits of the image enhancement in many ways, most worryingly in political arenas in order to get the legislation they want. Often their objectives - as in the case of Nestle - are in direct conflict with the health and welfare of society generally.

"Stockton-on-Tees Council refused Nestle sponsorship recently and has now drawn up strict guidelines which should ensure that they do not allow any company with a bad ethical record to sponsor them. They do not want to be drawn into a web of cause related marketing covering up unethical practices. It would be good if everyone adopted similar guidelines so that this type of problem is avoided."

For more information contact Baby Milk Action, 23 St Andrews Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX,
Tel: +44 1223 464420, Fax: +44 1223 464417.

For information on the Tap Water Award contact Suzanne Merrall - 0131 556 5204.

Some reports on the web:

Baby Milk Action press release - 15 August 2001: African health campaigners welcome boycott of Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe

The Scotsman - 21 August 2001: Comedian Thomas joins call for the Perrier boycott

Sunday Times - 12 August 2001: Hey, heard the one about the ethical comedian?

The Telegraph - 6 August 2001: Stars boycott Fringe awards for comedy

Yahoo - 6 August 2001: Campaigners call for Perrier Award boycott

BBC - 31 July 2001: Actress joins call for Perrier boycott

The Independent - 24 July 2001: Comedian calls for a boycott on Perrier Awards and 'corporate power'

The Scotsman - 24 July 2001: Comic battles to gag milk powder sponsor

BBC - 24 July 2001: Comedian calls for prize boycott

Notes for editors:

  1. For news of other celebrity endorsers see Boycott News 29.

  2. Baby Milk Action is a non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding. Baby Milk Action works within the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) - a coalition of more than 150 citizen and health worker groups in more than 90 countries around the world. IBFAN works for better child health and nutrition through the promotion of breastfeeding and the elimination of irresponsible marketing of infants foods, bottles and teats. Some news reports incorrectly suggest that Baby Milk Action is campaigning for a ban on infant formula marketing. In reality, Baby Milk Action is campaigning for companies to market their baby foods in accordance with the requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly.

  3. The WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Subsequent Resolutions have clarified interpretation and addressed changes in marketing practices and scientific knowledge.

  4. The latest IBFAN report - Breaking the Rules 2001 - was launched in May this year at the World Health Assembly to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The report cites Code violations by artificial baby milk companies, including promotion via the Internet. (The report can be purchased from Baby Milk Action's Virtual Shop).

  5. Nestlé's assurances about its marketing practices do not stand up to scrutiny. In May 1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints about an anti-boycott advertisement in which Nestlé claimed to market infant formula 'ethically and responsibly'. The two-year investigation was one of the longest in the ASA's history (see report in Boycott News 25).

  6. In November 2000 Nestlé was the first company called to give evidence to the European Parliament Public Hearings on corporate responsibility. Nestlé refused to attend (see report in Boycott News 29).

  7. Baby Milk Action has produced an education pack called Seeing through the Spin, which is designed for teachers and educators to help students recognise and deconstruct public relations messages.
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